LeBron James breaks NBA combined points record, but Lakers lose to Warriors
Frank Vogel called it awesome. Steve Kerr called it spectacular.
But LeBron James’ latest individual achievement couldn’t be totally celebrated, not with the Lakers losing again — even if they looked as good as they have in weeks.
Despite so many things, at least momentarily, going right at the same time, the Lakers couldn’t secure what would’ve been their best win of the season. The Warriors came back from six points down late to beat the Lakers 117-115 on Saturday night, ruining what could’ve been a special night.
It’s possibly a glimpse into the team’s immediate future, their best player racking up the NBA’s most sacred individual milestones with the prospects of winning fading into the background.
James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most combined points between the regular season and the playoffs. He tied the 44,149 mark late in the first half and passed it early in the third quarter. But those makes were a part of a rough shooting night, James going one for 10 from the field in the fourth quarter and missing a crucial free throw in the final seconds.
With the Lakers down three late, Stephen Curry attempted to foul James before he could take a potential tying shot. The officials ruled James had begun the act of shooting, and he was awarded three free throws.
He missed the first attempt. After making the second, James intentionally missed the third, but the Lakers were unable to attempt a tying shot.
The Lakers had just one field goal in the final three minutes, missing a handful of shots at the rim. And counting James’ intentional miss, the team also missed three free throws in the final 72 seconds.
With limited options, the Lakers were unable to make any moves before the NBA trade deadline at noon PST Thursday. They’ll focus now on buyout market.
The late-game errors spoiled what could’ve been a rare emotionally fulfilling victory, a night when so many things came together.
“That was as connected as we’ve been in a long while,” James said, crediting the passing of the NBA trade deadline Thursday as a key moment.
Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker, two of the names mentioned most frequently before in the build to the deadline, both played well in their first game on the other side of it.
Westbrook had 19 points on only 13 shots and Horton-Tucker had 17 off the bench. Malik Monk and Austin Reaves also had big games, picking up the slack for a slow offensive night for Anthony Davis, who did have three blocked shots.
After the NBA trade deadline passed with no moves made by the Lakers, Russell Westbrook and his teammates had “great energy,” coach Frank Vogel said.
Though the Lakers were criticized for their lack of action at the deadline, Vogel celebrated a renewed spirit among his team once Thursday’s deadline passed. He called it a “new day” and the Lakers mostly played like it.
But it ended with the same old result, their third straight loss and seventh in their last nine.
“This one definitely hurts,” Vogel said. “But overall, I love how our guys competed.”
Now with 44,156 combined points, James’ next target is No. 2 on the regular-season scoring list. He trails Karl Malone by 403 points.
Kerr, who has seen James score some of the biggest buckets of his career, remembered a moment before the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals showdowns when everything changed — late in the 2013 NBA Finals when the Heat beat the Spurs.
“It seemed like he had, maybe, more of a mental breakthrough than anything. But the last two games of that series, they couldn’t go under [screens] anymore. He was knocking down that shot,” Kerr said. “From that point on, I think his shot has gotten better and better. And that opened up the world for him.”
The Lakers led by six with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter before Klay Thompson got red hot and a couple of bad bounces pushed the ball right into his waiting hands.
Playing against the Lakers for the first time since April 4, 2019, Thompson had 33 points including 16 of the Warriors’ 22 in the fourth quarter. Those big shots sunk the good vibes from James’ achievement and the Lakers’ refreshed energy, robbing them of positive results.
Now the Lakers need to find a way to stack wins, the continued losing making it harder to feel good about what their best player is achieving.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” James said.
If they would’ve won, he’d have said more.
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